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Detroit Auto Show: Acura to unveil 2014 MDX prototype

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Acura announced Wednesday that it's bringing a prototype of its next MDX sport utility vehicle to the Detroit Auto Show in January. But if history is any indication,it will almost certainly be near production-ready.

Acura, and parent company Honda, tend to show vehicles dubbed "prototypes" that are really just thinly disguised versions of what will go on sale six or 12 months later. Recent examples include the current Honda Accord and Honda Fit and the forthcoming Acura RLX.

Thus, the MDX prototype will probably resemble the third generation of this SUV from Acura. Due in 2014, it will replace the current generation that's been with us since 2007. Acura promises it will have "Aero Sculpture" without revealing additional details. The teaser image does indicate the new MDX will retain the much-maligned Acura grille.

Acura needs all the help it can get. Sales in 2011 were about half those of rivals like BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. Many in the industry see Acura having a hard time differentiating itself in a crowded and hyper-competitive luxury marketplace. Acura hopes to correct this with the flagship RLX sedan that debuted at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. The RLX will go on sale in early 2013. 

Meanwhile, January's Detroit Auto Show will also feature Honda will delving into the other end of the SUV spectrum. The company announced earlier this week that it would be announcing an all-new small Honda SUV at the show. The vehicle will be smaller than Honda's CR-V crossover, and will share a platform with the sub-compact Fit car.

These announcements come on the heels of Honda's recall Wednesday of more than 800,000 Odyssey and Pilot vehicles and Acura MDX SUVs. The vehicles, built between 2003 and 2006, are being recalled for a faulty ignition switch. Honda says they can wear out and make it possible to remove the key without putting the transmission in park. This has resulted in several crashes and injuries. Affected owners are urged to contact their Honda dealers.

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